Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Notes: Harrison Smith not ready to run with first-string defense -- just yet

Posted by: under Vikings Updated: July 28, 2012 - 6:29 PM

Rookie Harrison Smith figures to be a Vikings starter before long. And the Vikings' internal hope is that he takes control of that job before the Sept. 9 season opener against Jacksonville. Yet at the outset of camp, Smith is taking his reps with the second unit defense as fellow safeties Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond work with the No. 1s. Sanford made 15 starts a year ago. Raymond, who made a conversion from cornerback to safety in his rookie season, played sparingly in 2011, not seeing significant time on defense until December. He started the Vikings’ final five games.

So what’s with Smith’s current place on the depth chart?

“We want him to compete and win that job,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how it plays out over the next few weeks.”

Sidelined

Josh Robinson did not participate in Saturday afternoon’s practice as he nurses the hamstring injury he suffered Friday. The rookie cornerback was in coverage against fellow rookie Jarius Wright on an all-out sprint up the right sideline when he pulled up and began clutching his left hamstring. At this point, Robinson is being labeled as day-to-day. But the Vikings feel as if they dodged a bullet with the rookie only tweaking the hamstring and not suffering any kind of tear.

Fully connected

Get used to seeing the Christian Ponder-to-Kyle Rudolph connection. Through two days of practice in Mankato, Rudolph has been Ponder’s favorite target, catching countless short passes in the flat as well as a handful across the middle. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave continues to laud Rudolph’s size. At 6-foot-6 with a huge catching radius, Rudolph is easy for Ponder to spot. He’s also come to camp this year bulkier but without losing any agility and seems poised for a breakout season with the ways Musgrave is promising to involve his tight ends.

But as much as Musgrave loves Rudolph and John Carlson, he also said Saturday the Vikings will miss Jim Kleinsasser, who retired after last season.

“It may take two players to replace Jim,” Musgrave said. “Because he could do a bunch of great fullback jobs as well as do a superior job on the line of scrimmage controlling a big run-stuffing defensive end. So we’ll want to make sure to run the schemes that fit our personnel and aren’t just our favorite plays because Jim made them successful in the past.”

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